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Thunderstorms

  • By: Jill S. M. Coleman
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Thunderstorms are convection storms comprising cumulonimbus clouds that are accompanied by lightning and thunder and moderate to heavy precipitation. Additional attributes may include strong winds, hail, and/or tornadoes. In terms of the hierarchy of atmospheric scales of motion, thunderstorms are classified as mesoscale systems, the second smallest after microscale systems. Mesoscale systems have a typical life span of 1 hr. (hour) or more and range in size from a few kilometers to 100 km (kilometers) in diameter. Based on system duration, structure, and formation, thunderstorms are classified as ordinary cell, multicell, or supercell and may or may not be considered severe.

Also known as air mass thunderstorms, ordinary cell thunderstorms have the simplest structure and formation conditions of the three major thunderstorm categories. These storms materialize ...

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